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  • Linc’s Top 25 Films of 2013 | #11-15

    By | December 27, 2013

    15) Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker

    The film’s telling of the “story” of Booker’s loss of his left eye, which he covered with a variety of flamboyant eye patches, perfectly captures the man himself. You get clips of various people telling different versions of the story, there are dozens out there, one involving Ringo Starr, another involving a pair of pliers and there’s Dr. John’s explanation that it had “something to do with Jackie Kennedy.” It seems that Booker in many ways was a complex and fragile man of mystery and not someone that could be contained by any one label. Gay, yes. Black, yes. Junkie, yes. Volatile, yes. Tragic, yes. Piano genius, yes. He was all of these and so much more. And the fact that his life was such a struggle and that his name is not better known is probably a damning testament to this country’s poor state of mental health care and shameful record of racial and sexual inequality. Hopefully Keber’s lovingly crafted, low budget labor of love will go a long ways towards providing Booker with some of the recognition, respect and most importantly, love, that he failed to receive during his lifetime. (Check out my full review of Bayou Maharajah.)

     14) Prince Avalanche

    The crawl of a pace that Green has given Prince Avalanche will surely be enough to anesthetize any viewers drawn to the film solely by the thought of a Paul Rudd-driven comedy but for those with a taste for more meditative fare (not to be confused with slighter fare, mind you), the film proves a treasure trove of emotions and laughs, subtly asking those questions that we all ask in our most broken, introspective moments, those questions that have no answers. (Check out my full review of Prince Avalanche.)

    13) The Act of Killing

    To be perfectly honest, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing is one of those films that is best experienced with no preconceptions or expectations. It is a totally necessary film that despite its chillingly disturbing subject matter offers a very unique perspective of unabashed evil. Just as the perpetually discomforting The Act of Killing will forever hold a sacred place in the history of non-fiction cinema, the film will certainly rattle around within your subconscious for an eternity. If this film does not incite a bevy of emotions within your soul, you must be as frigidly immoral as the central character — and yes, he is quite a character — Anwar Congo. (Check out Don Simpson’s full review of The Act of Killing.)

     12) Nebraska

    In my opinion, Nebraska marks Alexander Payne’s return to brilliance after his promising but ultimately unfulfilling The Descendants. The story of an old man’s last grasp at relevance, the film chronicles Woody Grant’s (Bruce Dern) roadtrip from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million-dollar Sweepstakes prize, accompanied by his son (Will Forte). Equal parts despair and comedy, the film movingly deals in themes of identity, regret, isolation and family history and features a brilliant late-career performance by Dern.

     11) Pilgrim Song

    I loved watching the interactions between these two wounded men, seeing the bond slowly grow and the defenses come down until James ultimately opens up in a way that he hasn’t done in a long time. It’s refreshing to see a film written and directed by women telling male stories (instead of the more common reverse) and the fact that Martha Stephens and Karrie Crouse are able to write male characters with such grace and truth is admirable. (Check out my full review of Pilgrim Song.)

    Stephens is never condescending or patronizing of her characters, yet she never romanticizes them either. Stephens casts highly naturalistic actors and places them in scenes alongside real people; she captures their stories as if shooting a documentary, allowing their narratives to breath while unfolding naturally and organically. Her unabashed desire to capture the purist possible realism is akin to the tone, pacing and visual aesthetic of Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy and Wendy & Lucy – Reichardt is certainly someone with whom Stephens shares a fondness for what has come to be known as “slow cinema.” (Check out Don Simpson’s full review of Pilgrim Song.)

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